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"ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

Article about: Green-painted stamped tinned steel waterbottles marked "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" have long been a mystery on the collector's market. Most speculate that they were manufactured in either In

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    Default "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    Green-painted stamped tinned steel waterbottles marked "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" have long been a mystery on the collector's market. Most speculate that they were manufactured in either India (Calcutta) or South Africa (Cape Town).

    In this side-by-side comparison, we see the similarities and differences between the green "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" waterbottle and the sand-colored "METAL BOX COY. ~ CALCUTTA ~ 1942" waterbottle, complete with Indian Government acceptance stamp.

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    Note that the former has a loop for the stopper cord, while the Indian waterbottle requires the cord to be stitched to the wool cover.

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    Additionally, the seam is on the back and the side of these bottles, respectively.

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    I had leaned towards Indian production due to the similarity in overall construction to known Indian examples from the period. Thanks to Steven Britton, however, I believe I have uncovered the maker and origin of these bottles. I recently received a set of South African-made rectangular mess tins from Steve seen below.

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    These tins are marked "M.L. J." and have a South African acceptance mark (the number 9 next to a Broad Arrow inside the letter 'U').

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    These markings suggested that ML was a South African firm based in Johannesburg (J) and Cape Town (CT), so I started searching Google for possible candidates. These searches all proved futile and I was about to give up, when I remembered that the style of the ML on the waterbottle is reminiscent of the MB marking used by the Metal Box Company.

    I decided to search for the Metal Box Company in Johannesburg and Cape Town and was rewarded with a reference to a building in Cape Town that belonged to "Metal Box Co (Maythams Ltd)".

    Further investigation of Maythams yielded an excerpt from The Development and Location of Industries in Greater Cape Town 1652-1972 by John Whittingdale, which read "The remainder of the Tiger Oats estate, which lay between Maitland station and the Cape Flats railway, was subdivided into industrial lots. Two of these lots were acquired by Maythams and the Metal Box Company of South Africa, both of which manufactured metal containers". This acquisition of industrial lots was sometime in the late 1930s.

    As my research continued, I found an interesting article about medals belonging to Albert Cornelius Maytham...

    Anglo Boer War - A double clasp CGHGSM to a Queenstown Burger - A.C. Maytham - Boer War Forum

    Albert Cornelius Maytham was born in about 1858 in the frontier region of the Easter Cape. When he joined the army at the age of 18 in February of 1881, it was recorded that he was a Tinsmith from Queenstown. After fighting in the Transkei & Basutoland Campaigns, Maytham went into business and moved to Johannesburg sometime after 1907, where he founded Maytham's Limited. He passed away in Johannesburg in November 1932 and had been in business with his son Reginald Patrick Maytham.

    An advert for Maytham's Limited from the February 1923 issue of The Sun & Agricultural Journal of S.A..

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    The final details of Maytham's Limited came in the book Metal Box: A History by W.J. Reader. Reader states that "Maythams were South African competitors. By amalgamating with them … Metal Box would virtually buy their goodwill and trade connections." He goes on to write "Maythams' shares were all held within the Maytham family but only one member – R.P. Maytham – was active in the business at the time of the negotiations with Metal Box. The company made 'general line' goods entirely and it had three factories, none large, in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town."

    "Terms were put to Maythams in January 1933 but the negotiations did not come to a head until R. P. Maytham unexpectedly arrived in England in July. By then he was anxious to settle".

    R.P. Maytham stayed on with the company's management as part of the take-over bargain and G.E. Williamson became Chairman of Maythams Limited and joint Managing Director with R. P. Maytham in October 1934. Apparently R.P. Maytham was always at odds with his partners from Metal Box. Reader states

    "The business [Maythams], when Williamson took over, had a factory in Johannesburg, another in Durban, and two, which were almost immediately combined into one, in Cape Town. Durban and Johannesburg are about 400 miles apart but Cape Town is about 1,000 miles from either, and in 1934 it took nearly two days to reach Johannesburg by train and three days, or four by sea, to reach Durban, making personal contact slow and expensive. ... Johannesburg factory was adequate for local needs but 'offered considerable scope for improvement'. Durban aroused his (Williamson's) wrath. It was 'hopelessly inadequate ... and ... grossly mismanaged'. In Cape Town, since neither of the two existing factories was or could be made large enough, a new factory would have to be built, preferably separating General Line from Open Top.

    Williamson's plans went ahead rapidly in the first six months of 1935. He got sanction from London, in February, for £20,000 capital expenditure at Durban to double the size of the factory and modernize its equipment. In May the Board agreed to his plans for a new factory in Cape Town."

    Maythams' factory at Durban, South Africa, probably about 1932.

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!

    Reader describes the firm during the Second World War as follows...

    "Maythams Ltd. in South Africa and the Metal Box Company of India both suffered, like the parent company, from scarcity of tinplate. Even so, Maythams' production of open-top cans rose from 16 million in 1939 to 114 million in 1945 and the Indian company established a new factory for milk cans at Okara. Both companies, again like the parent, launched into the production of metal goods of many kinds, from land mines to fly buttons, chiefly for war purposes, and both were carried along on the wave of industrial expansion which, especially in South Africa, followed the outbreak of war and separation from normal sources of supply of manufactured goods. During the war the three South Afrcian factories produced, between them, goods worth about £5.5 million and the output of the Indian business, employing about 4,000 people, came to £4 million, against £170,000 in 1939.

    Both in South Africa and in India, during the war, nationalist pressure increased. In South Africa Metal Box for a time was going against the tide. The Board, anxious to be disembarrassed finally of R. P. Maytham, who was away in the forces, agreed with him, through the agency of D. W. Brough, that when his ten-year contract expired, on 30 April 1944, it should not be renewed. The agreement committed Metal Box to buying Maytham's shareholding, so that soon after Metal Box got rid of a South African executive they also increased their holding in a South African company to 95½ per cent of the capital."

    Maytham's address in Johannesburg from The Union of Africa Government Gazette - 10 March 1944.

    "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" Water Bottle Mystery Solved!


    - Stamped tinned steel waterbottles marked "ML. C.T. ~ 1943" were made by Maytham's Limited in Cape Town.
    - The similarity in the design of the ML to the MB of the Metal Box Company reflects the amalgamation of the two companies in the 1930s
    - The similarity in design to wartime Indian bottles is due to the fact that both companies had affiliations with Metal Box Company and that both India and South Africa were part of the Eastern Group Supply Council during the war.
    Last edited by karkee; 02-02-2020 at 09:15 AM.

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